LAFAYETTE – The difference between winning a close game essentially comes down to the small things.
The difference between a shot that say falls through the rim and one that rolls around the rim only to fall out is minuscule. The same can be said for the execution of an inbounds pass or a desperation midcourt shot at the buzzer.
The No. 8-seeded Northside Vikings found out just how cruel the small things in a game can be in a 60-57 loss to No. 9 Plaquemine Green Devils Tuesday night in the Class 4A playoffs.
“We talk all the time about how the small things that wins a game,” Northside second-year coach Ross Rix said. “Tonight, we just didn’t do those things.”
After spotting Northside a 5-0 lead, Plaquemine (24-6) began to set the tone with its physical man-to-man defense.
At the end of the first, the Green Devils trailed the Vikings 15-12, and then in the second quarter Keandre Randall and C.J. Young caught fire.
Randall began to find his shot with a long two-point jumper, which he followed with a long 3-pointer that tied the game at 22 with 1:52 left in the half.
“He has worked so hard this summer to get that confidence to make those shots,” Plaquemine coach Donald Johnson said. “He can flat out shoot it.”
A pair of back-to-back buckets by Young capped off a 10-2 run to end the quarter and give Plaquemine a 26-24 lead.
Randall and Young helped the Green Devils build up a seven-point lead in the third, but Northside’s Darius Randell rallied the Vikings. Whether it was with a 3-pointer at the top of the key, a pair of steals, hitting free throws or a baseline layup, Randell helped Northside (23-10) tie the game at 39 at the end of the period.
“Darius tried to will us to a win tonight,” Rix said. “I am so proud of him. Not just for tonight but for the whole season and the progress he has made this past two seasons.”
In the fourth, Northside seemed to take control by working the post area with senior power forwards Jonte Morrison. The Vikings big man stepped up by grabbing multiple rebounds and scoring eight points, including going four-for-four at the free- throw line.
“We knew it was going to be physical game,” Rix said. “We tried to get the ball inside and get them in trouble, and we had some success.”
The two teams traded buckets until it appeared that Northside might advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014.
After Morrison’s hook shot gave the Vikings a 57-56 lead, the teams traded a pair of steals, but Northside fought and won a jump ball at midcourt. Plaquemine was forced to foul and with 26.2 seconds left, and Northside senior Brandon Ellis went to the line.
That’s when those small things made the difference.
Ellis watched as both of his attempts rimmed out leaving the door opened for Plaquemine to win.
After being fouled, Young drained two free throws to give the Green Devils a 58-57 lead.
After Ellis brought the ball back upcourt, Northside took a timeout with 9.4 seconds. The ensuing inbounds pass from Keveius Harrison to Christian Clinton turned into a turnover as Clinton couldn’t handle the ball with tight defense.
“We panicked a little bit in that spot, and we ended up turning over the ball,” Rix said.
After a pair of free throws again by Young, Northside had one final chance to force overtime, but Randell’s desperation shot failed to fall in.
Darius Randell led Northside with 27 points while Morrison chipped in 17. Keandre Randall paced Plaquemine with 18 while Young added 12.
“Northside is a really tough team,” Johnson said. “Class 4A basketball in this state is the best.”
Plaquemine will now face top seed St. Thomas More in the quarterfinals.
Despite the defeat, Northside had plenty to be proud of this season, which was dedicated to its late teammate Jo’Nathan Delacroix. The Vikings were ranked as high No. 3 in the power rankings, finished second in District 4-4A and won a playoff game.
“I am very proud and thankful for these seniors who have set the bar high for our younger players,” Rix said.